A reader writes: “I was hacked by someone claiming to be AVG (the antivirus people). I had to close 20-25 accounts. My bank said I was the third person to come in that day.”

The state attorney general’s office told him to close all bank and payroll accounts. They’d seen the fake AVG ruse many times before. Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” took a virus off his computer and put new antivirus software in. But it took 12 days before he got his computer back.

He felt like writing the hackers to tell them to bug off. “I want a SAFE way to tell them I’m not using them ever but I’m horrified to contact them at all,” he said. “I feel like a complete idiot for not seeing through them.”

It’s not his fault. On his phone the hackers looked just like the real AVG antivirus. One tip-off:  They called multiple times a day. They still call him most days. Reputable companies don’t do that. If you look up “AVG scam,” you’ll see a whole page of warnings from the real AVG. Their support page gives you their actual phone numbers. They never make unsolicited calls or ask for a credit card to verify your copy of their products. Go to AVG.com/support if you have a question.

We suggested the reader  block the number on his phone, or use a free app like  “TrueCaller” to block spam calls. Or, as we’ve said before, keep your phone on “do not disturb,” making exceptions for friends and other contacts. We deal with spam calls by having all landline calls to our cell phone, because the cell phone is better at blocking them. To do this, dial star-seven-two on the landline. Wait for a dial tone and press the 10 digit number where you’d like your calls to be forwarded. We got a new number for our landline that we give out to very few people.


  • MiltonFriedman.Hoover.org has the collected works of the Nobel-Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, or “Uncle Miltie” as he is known to fans. Put in a search term, and click on a result, which may include a TV appearance, a letter to the editor, or an article. Or browse the featured links. Friedman was a free-market advocate.
  • 10 Cleanest Cities in the World.” Search on the phrase to get some interesting lists. Most lists include Copenhagen. TheDiscoverer.com also likes Reykjavik, Iceland, Vancouver, Canada, Cape Town, South Africa, Portland, Oregon, Singapore, Adelaide, Australia, Luxembourg City, Zurich, Switzerland and Calgary, Canada. Her.ie says Paris is second on the list of most expensive and dirtiest cities.

Choosing a Laptop for College

Engadget.com recommends “ultraportable” laptops for students heading off to college.They weigh less than three pounds.

Even gamers, who normally use desktop computers, can get ultra lightweight but super-powerful machines. To “future-proof” your Windows computer, get 16 gigabytes of RAM. Engadget suggests the Dell XPS 13, with a “Dolby Vision” high definition display or the ASUS Sbook 13. Both cost around $1400. Or if you don’t need Windows, try a Chromebook. Joy swears by our Acer Chromebook 14. It only has four gigabytes of RAM, which is nothing these days, but somehow manages to be as fast or faster than our much newer Windows machine. It costs $187 on Amazon. The reviews are 15 percent negative there, but we’ve never experienced any of the problems they mention.

The Spy in the Package

Who would have thought that a package could spy on you? IBM researchers put it to the test.

According to PC Magazine, the researchers put spy devices in packages that were activated when in range of a company’s WiFi network and were able to sniff out a password.

The robotic spies cost less than $100 to make and were created from off-the-shelf components. They can be hidden in the bottom of the box or in a stuffed animal. Bottom line: Companies shouldn’t assume packages are safe. “Treat your packages like you would treat a visitor,” says an IBM researcher. “Would you let a visitor walk straight up to your chief financial officer’s desk?”

Distracted drivers

With 55 million students headed back to school this fall,  it’s dangerous to be driving or walking in a school zone in the morning, according to Cambridge Mobile Telematics, which analyzed more than 50,000 drives. Teenagers, of course, are the most distracted.

More than half of distracted events happen at less than 20 miles per hour. Distracted driving goes up by five percent in the school season.

We’re going to try out State Farm’s “Drive Safe and Save” program. Liberty Mutual has a similar program called “RightTrack.” They’ll put a gizmo in our car, we’ll download an app, and get a discount of up to 30 percent on auto insurance.  Even if we don’t drive well, we’ll get five percent off just for signing up.

Sleep Sounds

Recently we raved about the “SleepPhones” made by Acoustic Sheep. These are soft cloth headbands that contain Bluetooth speakers, so you can listen to music, books or other sounds while you nod off to sleep. Now they’ve embarked on “The Harmony Project” to find out which sounds work best.

The result is a wide range, including white noise, Nature sounds and gentle music. To get these sounds, search for “The Harmony Project” in your phone’s app store.  It’s free for Android and iPhone and works with any headphones. You can skip a sound if it does nothing for you, but that tends to wake us up, so we’d rather let it roll.


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